The daughter of a Chinese mother and a Russian Jewish father, Tatjana Barbakoff used her mixed heritage as inspiration for stunning and innovative dance performances. Born Cilly Edelberg, Barbakoff began learning ballet and performing Chinese dances at age ten. At nineteen she joined the Berlin literary cabaret Schall und Rauch, changing her name and performing a mix of Russian- and Chinese-inspired dances. She debuted as a soloist in 1925 and toured throughout Germany and France, dancing in costumes inspired by the rich brocades and silks of her mixed background. Her expressive technique entranced critics, while her costumes inspired dozens of painters and sculptors to capture her likeness. In 1927 she began more formal ballet training under the ballerina Catherine Devilliers and expanded her repertoire to include dances like Church Images of Old Russia, Mongolian Flag Bearer, Chatting Women, and By the Waters of Babylon. She fled Germany for Paris in 1933 and continued performing to packed audiences, but was imprisoned after the German invasion in 1940. Freed during the armistice, she fled to Nice, but was captured again in 1944 and sent to Auschwitz. Interest in her work revived in 2005, when an extensive collection of artwork she had inspired was exhibited in Germany.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Tatjana Barbakoff." (Viewed on January 18, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/barbakoff-tatjana>.